I’ve long thought that taking a basic food staple and turning it into fuel for our cars was the ultimate arrogance. The nose-thumbing equivalent, say, of turning down a friend needing a $4 loan and then using that $4 to buy a venti vanilla latte.
“Yes, I know you’re hungry,” we seem to be saying, “and I know you have kids to feed, too. But if I turn all of this corn into ethanol, there’s a chance I could save ten cents a gallon.”
The good news, I guess, is that we’re developing new ways to create ethanol from the solid walls of plants that will be more efficient than the current method, which only uses about 50% of the dry kernel mass of corn. The bad news, which goes largely ignored, is that mileage decreases fairly significantly with E85, thus causing us to burn more in the first place. The rest of the bad news is that the “demand” for ethanol is driving food prices up and creating a food shortage.
You may have already noticed rising rice prices. Some retails stores in the US have begun rationing the amount of rice you can buy. Why? We’re consuming (both eating and burning for fuel) more rice than we’re producing. “For the first time, it’s been clear that we are consuming more rice than we are producing globally,” said Robert Zeigler, head of the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute.
Honestly, it all makes me just want to ride my bike.